Monday, 7 March 2011

The Heath Library

Nice letter from the Camden Labour Councillor Tulip Siddiq (groovy name) in response to mine about budget cuts that, as I thought, might have brought about the closure of Heath Library, a charming retreat next door to Keats House in Hampstead. I first became aware of the library issue when I saw a photo of an extremely cross-looking Howard Jacobson on the front page of the Ham & High - he doesn't look like the sort of person you'd want to mess with. Jacobson and a contingent of other influential local scribblers are up in arms about David Cameron's latest and most baleful lex Fannia, the imposition of a £2m cut in the Camden libraries budget. Tulip advises me to disregard the scaremongering and contribute to the public consultation, open until 7 April. She also says it would be a good idea to lobby Eric Pickles, with whom responsibility for the preservation or closure of libraries ultimately rests. Pickles is the Conservative Member for Brentwood and Ongar and Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. A big man, he looks as though he'd be at least as tasty in a scrap as Howard Jacobson. They could have a cagefight. Among Pickles's principal virtues are his probity and thriftiness. When a host of shysters in Westminster were having their collars felt for neutering their mistresses' cats on the proceeds of fraudulently claimed mortgage relief and building mock-Tudor gazebos at the public's expense, Pickles remained comparatively transparent and unblemished. Let's hope that his native Yorkshire instinct for watching the pennies doesn't lead to the wholesale closure of public libraries. That would be a pity, since there are plenty of other areas in which the Leeds Leviathan could cut costs. For example, overpaid and undereducated bureaucrats are the millstone around this country's neck. They should be strung up, not librarians.

Libraries - I noticed on several websites the expression of a disturbing and insidious concept ripe to be discredited: information, so this new thinking goes, is now so easily available on the web and in databases that libraries will soon become redundant. When that idea takes hold, we'll have seen the final triumph of numbercrunching philistinism.

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